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Katz says Iran vote a ‘clear message,’ calls to up pressure on Tehran

The Israeli foreign minister called on the international community to blacklist the IRGC, and demand Tehran curb its nuclear program and support for terrorism.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Saturday night urged the international community to increase the pressure on the mullahs in Iran, after supposed reformer Masoud Pezeshkian won the Islamic Republic’s second-round presidential vote.

“The people of Iran have sent a clear message of demand for change and opposition to the Ayatollah regime through the elections,” said Katz.

“Now the world must designate the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] as a terrorist organization and demand the cancellation of the nuclear program and the cessation of support for terrorist organizations. This is the only chance to realize the change,” he added.

Pezeshkian, a former heart surgeon born in 1954 to an Iranian Azerbaijani father and Iranian Kurdish mother, said on Friday that should he win the presidency, he would “try to have friendly relations with all countries except Israel.”

He is not expected to produce any major policy shift in Tehran’s nuclear program or support for Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, or the various militias in Iraq and Syria.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani has said the Islamic Republic’s support for “the oppressed people of Palestine and resistance groups [pursuing] the unalienable rights of the Palestinians to the liberation of their land and standing against the usurping Zionist regime” would carry on unchanged.

Late last month, Axios reported that Israel is re-establishing working groups in various government bodies to discuss the Iran nuclear threat after they were frozen some 18 months ago.

The initiative, overseen by Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, restarts six groups in the Mossad, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), and in the intelligence and cyber fields, according to the report. The Mossad groups will focus on the nuclear program and weaponization, while the ISA will focus on combating Iranian influence campaigns in Israel. The other teams will combat cyber threats vis-à-vis Hezbollah and the Houthis.

Israel and the United States have also agreed to reschedule a high-level meeting on the Iranian threat that was canceled after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Biden administration of withholding arms from Jerusalem.

The U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group (SCG), formed during the Obama administration, has not convened since March 2023.

The “strategic dialogue” is led by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Hanegbi, and includes officials from the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and intelligence agencies.

Tehran is reportedly set to triple or possibly quadruple its uranium enrichment capacity at Fordow, one of the country’s most secretive nuclear facilities, where it is installing some 1,400 advanced IR-6 centrifuges.

The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog also confirmed that, for the first time, Iran has commenced the process of feeding uranium gas into three cascades of advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility.

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